The Tale of One Woman’s Tramp Stamp

Loan me your brain for a minute; we’re gettin’ all philosophical up in herrr:


Which came first: the chicken or the egg?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

Would The Kardashians still be a show if Kim hadn’t gotten freaky nasty on the Interwebs?

If a woman gets a tramp stamp pre-tramp stamp era, is it really a tramp stamp?


It was college. My parents weren’t physically there, peering over my shoulder, but I could feel the heavy weight of their metaphorical presence giving me the stink-eye and telling me to really think about this, Stephanie. So, I thought about it. Then my boyfriend said he wanted to pay for it so I thought myself right into that tattoo parlor.

I am embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t realized the needle turned on. Like, made a buzzing noise as if it were going to saw me in half turned on. When I first heard the deliberate whirring, I politely excused myself from my deliciously and flamboyantly gay tattoo artist, explaining I wasn’t mentally prepared and would have to come back another day. His reaction was an attention-getting exasperated sigh, arms thrown dramatically into the air, and:

“Giiiiiirl! Everybody knows these needles make noise! Go outside and get yourself together. Come back when you’re composed.”

I came back. Two weeks later.

My artist pal was there, and upon seeing me walk back into his studio, was kind enough to hide his snarky smirk behind his hand.

“I’m ready!” I announced with feigned confidence. But I don’t think he heard me as he had feasted his eyes upon then-boyfriend’s biceps.

I hiked up my shirt and let my low-rise Levis do their thing, preparing for what I was sure would be the worst pain of my life. (Note to future childbearing self: Bahahahahahahahahahahaha!)

A half an hour and a few cat scratches later, I was the proud owner of my very own tramp stamp.

Here’s the thing about The Tramp Stamp: it really didn’t come into circulation until a few years after I got inked, so when I opted for a tattoo in the location everyone promised would hurt the least, I couldn’t have possibly predicted the social ramifications. Dammit, at the time, it just made sense.

I mean, a wiser person could have deduced from the rampant tattoo’ed MTV video vamps that the “stamp” would certainly cement its place in pop culture. But then, a wiser person would have also known the friggin’ needle turned on…

Am I ashamed of my pre-tramp-stamp-so-it’s-not-really-a-REAL-tramp-stamp? Nah. It’s a piece of me just like my first heartache courtesy of the tattoo purchasing boyfriend, graduating college, or landing my first real job.  Moments in my history, marked by experiences that I don’t want to change because changing them would mean a different me.

And I know you’re curious: what does a good Catholic girl, finally out from underneath Mommy and Daddy’s thumb, choose as her first tattoo? The Holy Trinity of course.

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  1. I had mine when I was a senior in high school, long before it became an “in” thing among women in our country. My mother nearly fainted when I showed it to her when she arrived from an out of town trip “Look mom! I have a surprise for you!”. I just didn’t know what to do when she started crying and said “What have I done wrong!” LOL

  2. I got my first tattoo at the age of 36! On my upper back shoulder. I think tats are more artistry than anything else. But I will say – even at my ripe age – my mother was livid! I think I still got grounded. :)

  3. I have one. I got it later in life, as in post-tramp phase of life, married and careered up. So, is it still a tramp stamp if you’re past the age in life where you could ever be considered a tramp?


  1. […] Not that I have any business judging a tramp stamp. […]

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